Perspective on Real Estate

November 6, 2002

December 5, 2002

December 11, 2002

Disagreement without rancor

The holiday season is filled with memories of youth, of family, happiness; perhaps even loneliness for some. It is also notable because it brings the once young year to its end, so that we "experts" can be invited to conferences to give our opinions on what might happen in the new year.

In order to be equipped to bring the best I can to that task, I read until my eyes fall out and confusion threatens to engulf my logic. Fortunately, I have gone through enough cycles of real estate's ups and downs that I recognize the differences among nuances, events and trends.

I do also want to share a recent experience here in San Diego that will make the holidays even more meaningful. This involved the process of the hearings before the City Council on the moving of the San Diego Rescue Mission. Usually these kinds of events are contentious, unpleasant, and filled with rude rules of combat.

Let me set the stage: There were several dozen representatives of affected neighborhoods near the former Harborview Medical Building, especially Little Italy. My wife and I eat in Little Italy about once a week and I love it, for it reminds me of the Little Italy in which I grew up in Paterson, New Jersey. Italian food and Italian hospitality were the infrastructure of my life. I learned that warmth makes most foods and life much better.

There were business owners, little folk and important folk who feared that having this Rescue Mission near schools, churches and homes would despoil their community.

You can imagine the passion evidenced at this hearing. Yet they also spent time praising the record of this Rescue Mission, now spread over several locations in downtown's East Village area.

The point is that when people fear something, they can become distraught, threatening and too angry for rational thought or action. Instead, this was disagreement on a higher level of civility. It made me especially proud of this democratic process wherein citizens can feel passionate, express themselves vividly and yet keep their fears mostly under control. This is the type of hearing that does a community proud, educates a listening City Council and expresses its feelings with impressive levels of articulation. I thought that the mayor conducted the hearing with the experience and dignity of a good judge, knowing that either alternative would antagonize half the crowd. It was therefore a lose-lose situation that came out a winner for future discussions on controversial matters.

Just as people should care about their environment, they must also pay intense attention to any matters that might affect their community. They must express their hearts, load up on facts in the search for truth, and then vote with their brains. None of this was easy, except the gentility that surrounded this important discussion.

There will be many more of these contests in our future as complexity engulfs our growing society. The opportunity is to prevent serious mistakes while making progress towards our destiny. The future is often amorphous, like an approaching fog bank unintimidated by experts or soothsayers.

The criteria should be what the sage, Hillel, said so many decades ago, paraphrased by a former resident of the Rescue Mission, DeWayne Biggs: If not here, where? If not now, when? If not us, then who?

And George Stevens wisely added: "People fall down, but they get up; somebody has to help them get up."

So my take on this type of thing is that it is real estate development, with a marvelous philanthropic, human bent; it will benefit the regional society as a whole, and leave us a better than we were.

All can be argued when a matter contains so much controversy, but that gives us a better opportunity to solve serious inadequacies and make life more hopeful for a minority of our neighbors who need our understanding so desperately. When all is done, we are all minorities sometime in life.

Goodkin has been a business ethicist and housing analyst since 1956. He may be reached at

November 6, 2002

December 5, 2002

December 11, 2002